Jajpur: Operations at the state-owned Nilachal Ispat Nigam Ltd (NINL) were disrupted after an explosion ripped through the blast furnace of the steel plant at Kalinganagar in Jajpur district in the wee hours of Sunday.
Around 50 labourers working at the site had a providential escape from the blast. The incident occurred after an explosion in the blow pipe of the tuyere no-15 in the blast furnace due to water seepage at 3.45 am. A tuyere is a nozzle or pipe through which air is blown into the blast furnace.
The plant at Kalinganagar is a joint venture between the public sector undertaking Minerals and Metals Trading Corporation Ltd (MMTC) and the Industrial Promotion and Investment Corporation of Odisha Ltd (IPICOL) and the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC).
The blast resulted in a fire in the mudgun control room after molten iron came gushing out from the tuyere. As a result, cables and hydraulic lines worth around Rs 20 lakh were destroyed.
The blast has also disrupted production in the plant over the last three days. The incident comes six months after the plant authorities spent over Rs 80 crore in repairing the blast furnace in April.
The explosion occurred before the repair undertaken could complete six months. This has raised questions on the quality of the repairing undertaken in the old blast furnace.
The NINL plant was established in 1996 at Kalinganagar and plant authorities had aimed to develop it into an integrated steel project by 2002.
The goal never saw the light of the day and the plant now produces only pig iron, coke, billet, wires and aluminium sulphate. Thanks to the alleged mismanagement of MMTC, the company suffered a loss of Rs 1,000 crore in the last five years.
The plant underwent a complete makeover in April when repair work was undertaken in the blast furnace. It resumed production May 1. The plant authorities had planned to start work on the steel melting shop (SMS) later after receiving environmental clearance for its captive mines. It was expected that the move would result in more employment for locals.
The company even created a record by manufacturing 74,960 tonnes of hot metal and 69,780 tonnes of pig iron in June. This has raised high hopes among industry observers.
The blast in the furnace hardly six months after repair has spread panic among the employees. It is alleged that the plant authorities had tried to cover up the incident. Trade union leaders have demanded a probe by the CBI or a high level technical committee into the blast.
Executive director (works) RK Jha of NINL termed it as a minor incident. He said production has been stopped due to a blast in the pipe. Repair works are underway and soon normalcy will be restored, he added.